[Objective] A systematic review has been performed on groundwater investigation and research in the Taklimakan desert in recent 60 years, in order to summarize major achievements and understandings on groundwater recharge, discharge and circulation. The main shortcomings of current investigation and research as well as ten open questions were put forward and further study areas were pointed out. [Methods] Investigation reports and academic papers were systematically collected on groundwater in the Taklimakan desert for a comprehensive review on groundwater quality, quantity and circulation, in a combination with latest relevant achievements on desert groundwater from domestic and international hydrogeological communities.[Results] Groundwater in the desert originates from lateral groundwater flow from oases, precipitation and river water infiltration and groundwater is mainly consumed by evapotranspiration as well as a limited amount of human withdrawal. Groundwater storage is vast and at a level of 80 trillion m3. Currently, there is a great uncertainty in groundwater recharge and discharge estimation. Groundwater quality is poor in general as indicated by the total dissolved solids (TDS) spatial distribution where the majority of the desert has saline groundwater with TDS ranging from 5 to 10g/L, while only a small area with TDS less than 5 g/L. Vertically, groundwater quality is characterized by saline groundwater in deep and brackish groundwater in upper layers. Groundwater flows northward regionally and turns to flow eastward at the northern margin of the Tarim river fluvial plain, with a mean velocity of 55.94 m/a.[Conclusions] To solve these scientific question, in the future groundwater recharge and discharge should be quantified with more quantitative ways and longer time frame. Detailed data on groundwater circulation should be collected through the packer tests and monitoring in order to systematically study groundwater circulation patterns, put forward regional groundwater flow patterns and summarize quantitatively the features of each flow system. Identification of fresh water and techniques for utilizing high TDS groundwater in the desert should also be enhanced in the future investigation and research.